When English Isn't Good Enough

While you all were spending your three-day weekend skiing, we were moving rooms around. The playroom got consolidated into the front/multipurpose room. Chris' office moved to the old playroom room. My desk moved to the family room. And Joshua moved into his own bedroom. It felt like the classic sliding block puzzles we played with as kids. Move this block up, then that one over, then move this one back, and perfect, got one block moved to its spot!


The house is almost put back together. Actually, I don't mind the mess. It motivates me to clean out and throw out. I love space (as you already know). Right now things seem squished, a result of giving one child his own room. But I can see the potential. The places were space can be made. My goal is to chip away at it until the space is rediscovered. Elbow room for my growing family and for my soul. I'll send pictures later.

However, an unexpected result of all the shuffling is that my desk is now under a window that looks out on my backyard. Oh, I do so love to look out on my backyard. Right now, the sun is shining its wintery rays across our leafless trees. I can see the frost has melted off the trampoline. That my children moved the patio furniture again. And there are already tiny buds on the trees. I worry about those trees. Don't bloom too early, please.


I know I should be putting books back on shelves, but I'd rather sit here. Writing and looking out on my backyard. So, I'm going to tell you what's been on my mind the past few weeks.

I might not have mentioned this before, but one of our children did not learn english as his first language. Or is his second. English is his third language and while he doesn't speak the other languages anymore, the effects of learning a new primary language as a kindergartner are still noticeable, 5 years later.

Raising a child whose first language was not english has its challenges. Jokes are misunderstood, or not understood at all. Homophones are landmines. Synonyms are our friends. And non-conversational language is just HARD. Like dragging yourself through mud wearing backpacking gear... it's one small slow step at a time.

Science words, math words, and Biblical words all fall in the category of non-conversational language. To make things easier for him, we use word banks for science lessons. We use synonyms and repetition for math language. And for Biblical language, we use stories to explain difficult words.

For instance, take the word "hope." It can mean: wishful thinking, confident waiting, or oddly enough, it could me our daughter. We named her Hope. :) Something our son said recently sent me down a path to study the word hope. I think it's one of those words that gets misused. I recently read an Instagram post by a mom in a really rough situation who used the word hope to mean confident waiting. But the next day, used it again to mean wishful thinking. I'm pretty sure she didn't realize she did that. But you see what I mean. So, I researched it myself.

In the Bible, there are three words that can be translated "hope." Two Hebrew words in the Old Testament: "yakhal" and "qavah." One Greek word in the New Testament: "elpis."

  • yakhal means to wait

  • qavah means to wait with expectation, with tension in your soul

  • elpis means to wait with anticipation, with confidence

In general, qavah and elpis are used to mean the same thing, just in different languages (Old Testament/Hebrew and New Testament/Greek).

The thing to note is that in Biblical language, "hope" is always based on a person. In today's culture, hope is often used to express wishful thinking. Something you say when the odds are against you. "I hope the Giants win the World Series." But in Biblical language, hope is not based on circumstances. Hope is a choice. You choose to hope despite the circumstances because it's not about the circumstances. It's about the One True God. Hope is when you look forward with anticipation by looking back at God's faithfulness.

How would I explain this hope to my son? I'd use a story.

Do you remember the story about the sick little girl in the Bible? (Mark 5:21-43) Jesus came to the little girl in her room and she was already dead. But then he told her, "Little girl, get up." And she did. She was about your age. Can you imagine that? Jesus could bring her back to life. He has that kind of power. And nothing has changed since then. When Mommy's lungs are bleeding, Jesus can use that same power to heal them. But if he chooses not to heal them, it's not because he doesn't have the power. It's because he is waiting. One day, in heaven, Mommy's lungs will be healed. Won't that be great?! I can't wait for that day. I HOPE he will heal me, even though I don't know how long I will have to wait.

That's true hope. Qavah. Choosing anticipation. With a really long-view on life. An eternal view.

My lungs are a mess. That's just what God has chosen for me. He might have chosen cancer for you. Or financial burdens. Or ailing parents. Or mental illness. Or wayward children. Whatever it is that God chose for you, I promise, you can find hope in it. Lift your eyes to see a really long view. Look to the person of hope. He is faithful. And he has not forgotten you.

"There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy (elpis) such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!"

Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)